Criminal Justice

Texas lawyer pleads guilty to passing public PACER documents to Mexican drug traffickers

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A lawyer with an office in McAllen, Texas, has pleaded guilty to violating the Travel Act by accessing the PACER court database and using his cellphone to pass the publicly available information to drug traffickers.

Lawyer Eric S. Jarvis, 48, admitted providing information to traffickers about drug seizures contained in criminal complaints, according to a Department of Justice press release. Jarvis knew that drug traffickers would provide the information to their suppliers to continue receiving drugs for sale in the United States, prosecutors said.

Drug traffickers typically request documentation when a drug shipment is seized by law enforcement, according to the Progress Times.

Jarvis admitted obtaining criminal complaints at least eight times between July 2017 and May 2021 and using a cellphone to provide them to a Mexican drug trafficker or his successors. He also admitted accepting drug trafficking proceeds to pay for his representation of co-conspirators.

He agreed to forfeit $8,000 that he received as payment for his criminal actions.

Jarvis is a 1999 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, who ran unsuccessfully for state judgeships in two different elections, according to the Progress Times, which covered a raid of Jarvis’ office in April.

The Travel Act is a 60-year-old federal law passed to fight organized crime, Law360 reports. It bans the use of facilities of interstate commerce to promote or carry on specified illegal activities, including conduct that would otherwise be charged as state crimes.

According to the criminal information filed against Jarvis, he used his cellphone—a facility of interstate commerce—in a conspiracy to import and distribute a controlled substance and a conspiracy to commit money laundering. The plea agreement is here.

According to Law360, the Travel Act “slipped into obscurity for decades but has been dusted off in recent years by prosecutors going after health care fraud and foreign corruption cases that lie beyond the reach of conventional federal statutes.”

Law360 spoke with Dykema Gossett lawyer Jason M. Ross, who said the law has been used by federal prosecutors to prosecute health care fraud in schemes to defraud private insurers, rather than federal Medicare or Medicaid programs. Using the law to fight international drug trafficking may represent a new frontier, Ross said.

“There are fewer and fewer safe harbors, and the federal government is going to look to the Travel Act and other creative tools if they can’t get at the underlying bribe or conduct through traditional prosecutions,” Ross told Law360.

Jarvis is represented by Carlos A. Garcia of Mission, Texas.

“Eric is very remorseful for his lack of better judgment and looks forward to getting this chapter of his life behind him,” Garcia told the Progress Times.

See also: “Out of pace with reality? PACER’s flaws run counter to original purpose of increasing access to law” “Federal judiciary wrongly used PACER fees for unrelated projects, Federal Circuit rules”

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